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Gianna Gruen | Ideas

Keep to +2 degrees might not prevent permafrost from melting

Large parts of the Northern hemisphere from Alaska to China hold a dangerous treasure. 24 percent of this land’s ground is frozen throughout the year – so called permafrost. It holds more than 1,000 gigatons of the most dangerous greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide and methane. Release of those would accelerate climate change to great extend.

Now, researchers found evidence that permafrost could start melting already at a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in temperature. Also, the world already warmed up by 0.6 to 0.7 degree Celsius compared to the preindustrial level. So adding another 0.8 could already let permafrost melt.

That’s at least what happened in former times, as the scientists from Britain, Russia, Mongolia and Switzerland found out. They went into Siberian caves located along the ‘permafrost frontier’ studying stalactites and stalagmites as they function as a kind of climate archive – they only grow when liquid rainwater and snow melt drips from the surface into the caves.

“The stalactites and stalagmites from these caves are a way of looking back in time to see how warm periods similar to our modern climate affect how far permafrost extends across Siberia”, said Dr Anton Vaks of Oxford University’s Department of Earth Sciences, who led the work.

The amplifying effect on global warming the release of greenhouse gases held in the permafrost would have, exceeds everything climate models yet suggest. So, though almost 200 nations agreed in 2009 to the 2 degree target for global warming, this may not be enough to keep permafrost from melting and thus to mitigate climate change.


February 22, 2013



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admin | Ideas

Frankenstein meat to curb climate change?

Between the emission of methane (which traps more heat than CO2), deforestation for animal feed production, loss of biodiversity due to eutrophication, acidification, pesticides and herbicides as well as land degradation, 'factory farming' (the method through which most of the world's meat is produced) is considered more an earth pollutant than vehicles.

Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina are now hoping these environmental concerns will lead to more funding for what they consider the food of the future: lab grown meat. The scientists have taken embryonic cells that develop into muscle tissue from turkey and bathed them in a nutrient bath of bovine serum on a scaffold made of chitosam to grow animal skeletal muscle tissue. In order to make the meat juicy, they are adding a vascular system so that interior cells can receive oxygen. The scientists say this will take the need for feed out of the equation as well as stop the clearing of land for the factory farms.

The scientist in charge of the product plans on calling the resulting food 'charlem' for Charleston engineeered meat. It's a thought that almost makes you want to become vegetarian.


(Photo by ogondio)



February 1, 2011



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Ranty Islam | Reporter's Log

Rice – staple crop and climate killer?

Our reporter Carl Gierstorfer is currently filming in the Philippines for his upcoming report on sustainable rice production: Here is his third dispatch from the field:

Rice terraces"There are a lot of challenges ahead to adapt the world's most important crop – rice – to the consequences of climate change. Fortunately scientists got some smart ideas. But you might be surprised that rice farming itself has a negative impact on the world's climate. Not the plant is the problem, but the method in which it is grown. Rice (a sort of grass) needs a lot of water to grow. In fact, farmers flood their fields during the farming season, so that a fair part of the plant is submerged. This has many advantages; it keeps pests at bay, recycles nutrients and so on. But there is a downside. In these oxygen-depleted conditions bacteria grow that emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. In rice producing countries, the total emissions of methane make up a significant part of greenhouse gas emissions.

Now here is the challenge: feed ever more people with rice, make farming more productive, but reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Impossible? There is a way to get rid of the gas-emitting bacteria and even save precious water along the way. It is a simple method that scientists now try to bring to the farmers. How exactly this works, you will find out in my report.

We have traveled a fair deal now: from Manila south to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), then up north to the granary of the Philippines – the region of Nueva Ecija. We then headed to northern Luzon, to the Sierra Madre mountain range. Here are the famous rice terraces, carved into the hillsides by farmers some 2000 years ago. A UNESCO world heritage site – and topic of my next entry…"

(image thanks to CanadaGood @flickr)


January 21, 2011



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